Born Elinore Harris, Billie Holiday had a difficult teen and young adulthood period, which included working in brothels, both as a cleaning woman and a prostitute, and being raped. Through this difficulty, she dreamed of becoming a jazz singer. She got her initial singing break when she applied at a Harlem club that was looking for a dancer, but where she got hired as a singer. There, she met and fell in love with the suave Louis McKay. After this initial break, Billie wanted her singing career to move to the mainstream clubs in downtown Manhattan. She took a risk when she agreed to be the lead singer for the Reg Hanley Band, a primarily white group, who convinced her that she would have to make her mark in regional tours before her Manhattan dream could happen. As Billie tried to advance her career, pressures of life, including being a black woman, led to her not so secret substance abuse (especially of heroin), not so secret because of her increasingly erratic behavior, both on ...
Diana Ross IS Billie Holiday
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Did You Know?
originally considered Four Tops' lead singer Levi Stubbs
for the role of Louis McKay, but Stubbs had turned it down because he thought it would interfere with the group's future success. See more
[offering Billie a $20 bill
You want my arm to fall off.
Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
music and lyrics by Wesley Wilson See more